Project Canterbury

Within the Green Wall
The Story of Holy Cross Liberia Mission 1922-1957

By the Rt. Rev. Robert Erskine Campbell, O.H.C.
Formerly Prior of Bolahun and Bishop of Liberia

West Park, New York: Holy Cross Press, [1957]

Reproduced online by permission of the Superior of the Order of the Holy Cross, 2006.

Chapter 11. Solid Growth

WHILE AT Bolahun in '31 Bishop Campbell held the first ordination in St. Mary's Church. He advanced the Rev. A. V. Wiggins, of Iowa, to the priesthood in June. Father Wiggins had come from America to join the staff on the coast as agricultural expert. For a while he worked at Cape Palmas and later at Cape Mount. His services were needed just then by Father Gorham for that same type of advisory oversight in the farm programme at the mission. But as so often happens in any mission field, the highly trained agriculturalist had little opportunity to exercise his special skill. At Bolahun just then we had no resident doctor at the hospital. Father Wiggins was not a physician but he was well versed in first-aid work, and thus he filled in as dispenser. Both he and we felt disappointed that he could spare so little time demonstrating the value of soil conservation, rotating crops and fertilizers proper for the sandy clay soil of this area. But high tribute must be paid to him for his effective contribution to the hospital, making it possible for us [114/115] to keep it going, even though on a greatly reduced scale. Just at the time of his ordination Father Wiggin's furlough fell due. Dr. Werner Junge arrived at the mission from Germany on June 5th, and so Father Wiggins could leave for home shortly after.

Then in August we lost Father Simmonds. Father Gorham had written the Bishop that because of reduced income due to the depression the mission simply had to retrench, and that to the great distress of everybody Father Simmonds would have to be one of the casualties. Just at the minute there was a vacancy at St. John's School, Cape Mount, to which the Bishop transferred him. That however could not fill the gap at Bolahun, and for years we had to struggle with our construction and mechanical problems as best we could. Without exception everyone felt sorry to see him go, for his genial "know-how" and friendliness had endeared him to all.

Father Kroll was sent out that summer from Holy Cross to augment the mission staff. That was in August, in good time for him to get settled before the Superior (Father Hughson) came in October to make his statutory visit, which lasted for two months. It was in November, while Father Hughson was here, that the Sisters made their first patrol. They spent several days at Boawohun, bringing back glowing reports of the prospects there. During his stay, the Superior held many conferences with the mission staff to convass the unhappy theme of how to reduce expenses still further. Necessary as all this financial pruning was, it left a dark brown taste in the mouth of everyone. All major building projects had to be postponed indefinitely and the expenditure of money limited to bare necessities. Minor problems sometimes had their comic as well as their serious side. One such was the day a hen climbed to the attic of the convent, presumably to lay an egg. While there she pecked at a nest of termites in the celotex of the chapel ceiling. Said celotex gave way, and, to the astonishment of the Sister dusting in chapel [115/116] the hen came fluttering down. That is amusing now, but it did nothing to help us liquidate those destructive termites, or to find some material for a replacement.

The next year ('32) brought a change of Priors. For six years Father Gorham had eased the inevitable tensions and had organized hospital, schools and evangelistic work, together with the monastery and the convent, into a cooperative unit. To inspire such diverse groups and interests with a common ideal presented a knotty problem in itself. But Father Gorham's sterling character, his simple faith in both God and man, his big boyish laugh when amused, endeared him to everybody. He dealt with people as individuals, not just as "cases." Not infrequently when he was supposed to administer stern rebuke to some local offender the interview would end amid roars of laughter from both judge and culprit, so that they parted firm friends, true brothers in Christ. His methods have never been duplicated--and most effective they were. Yet, the strain of administration wore him down physically so that in August he had to be invalided home. A sad day it was for the mission when he left, for even little children simply adored him as their personal friend.

Father Baldwin joined the staff a couple of months after Father Gorham's departure and was appointed Prior to carry on in his place. True to his academic background, Father Baldwin gave special attention to the schools, and to the mastery of native dialects. Both these matters, while by no means neglected, had been on a rather sketchy basis. In the boys' school Mr. Manley's hand was strengthened and a suitable standard curriculum installed, more after our American pattern. While the Sisters were making such valiant effort to bring order from chaos in the opening of St. Agnes' for girls, Father Baldwin could offer substantial help and advice. At his insistence the missionaries began systematic language study. Father Baldwin himself specialized in Mende, Father Kroll in Kisi, and when Father Parsell arrived the next year he dug into Bande. Parts of the Mass were [116/117] translated, to give the people greater part in the service. These were tried out but soon dropped because the congregation preferred the English with which they had become familiar. That language work it is, which more than any other factor, has anchored the mission, and in the eyes of the native population has given us such cordial acceptance as an integral part of the Liberian Hinterland. In a technical sense we can never be anything but foreigners and strangers. To the hearts and minds of the people however we have become one with them. If Father Allen's medical skill had broken down the last vestiges of suspicion, it was our trying to speak their own tongue which brought flashing smiles and a fresh confidence to our neighbors. We have always considered this move a stroke of genius on Father Baldwin's part. He divined what was the crying need and took prompt measures to meet it.

This same year brought also some necessary alterations in the Church services. With a special missionary license from the Bishop, Holy Communion was administered in one kind, under the species of Bread. The chief reasons for altering, as a temporary measure only, the Church' provision for receiving both host and chalice, were two. First there stood the great expense and extreme difficulty of getting sacramental wine at all; and then the clumsiness and even irreverence of some of the communicants.

About this time it was that we decided to dismiss the catechumens after the gospel at Mass. This certainly conformed to the practice of the early Christians when heathen and curious sightseers had to be excluded from the Christian Mysteries. The arrangement of allowing none but the baptized to tarry for the anaphora (the central action of the Mass) has been a most salutary measure. In the words of the ancient liturgies, it reserves "Holy things for the Holy."

There never is a dull day at Bolahun, and we hope there never will be, for God's work is one thrilling adventure. It was in no [117/118] spirit of weariness over humdrum existence, no passive acceptance of the inevitable, that the next few years were passed. Father Baldwin pushed the work in the outstations, frequent patrols being organized to towns both far and near. We already have commented on the intensive study of the local languages and the incalculable help it has been for the work. But in June '33, again because of reduced income, Dr. Junge had to be released from his contract, to the acute distress of all concerned. We still had Dr. Krueger, however, and an expert laboratory technician, Miss Jutta Kolbe. Fortunately at St. Timothy's Hospital Cape Mount, there happened to be a vacancy, so the Bishop transferred him thither. This year brought us also a newly professed priest from Holy Cross in the person of Father Joseph Parsell, whose inspiring service at the mission continues to this day. Dutch prospectors for gold and diamonds made long stays with us in '34 and '35 and supplied great help to Father Whittemore in his hobby, cartography, enabling him to draw maps of the country at once accurate and intelligible. (Have we ever wrestled with maps which are neither?) Graham Greene, whose "Journey without Maps" mentions his visit here, arrived with his cousin for a week's stay early in '35. Unfortunately we could not help chart his course to the coast much beyond Pandemai. The Rt. Rev. John Daly, newly consecrated Bishop of Bathurst, British Senegambia, visited us for a "look-see" and preached at High Mass on a Sunday in September '35. After many years in Bathurst and later in Accra on the Gold Coast, Dr. Daly is now the Anglican Bishop in Korea.

Bishop Campbell arrived for another visit in December of '34 and thus had the joy of being at the mission for Christmas. After the New Year he made quite a trip with Father Kroll to the recently opened preaching stations in Kisiland. He then accompanied Father Parsell on the "Bandi Patrol," which meant a generous loop nearer home but with necessary stops requiring the best part of a week. Baptized Christians were few, but [118/119] obviously the general interest was increasing. As we have always been careful to avoid gathering a lot of "rice Christians" whose main purpose is to see what they can get, it meant that these inquirers known as Hearers and the more persevering of the Catechumens came from worthy motives. Father Baldwin it was who systematized thus the candidates for Holy Baptism. Regular courses of instruction had been worked out for the various stages of progress, beginning with the Old Testament stories, and no Catechumen could be baptized till after a probationary period of two or three years. The observance of "God's Law," the ten commandments was required of all as a test of sincerity. Those children whose parents were already Christians could of course be baptized in infancy, but heathen boys and girls not before they had attained the fifth grade in school. Those who were not in school were required to wait till old enough to know what they were asking for. The necessity for such rules was impressed on us by any number of unhappy incidents of which some were funny while others deserved sentences in jail. Thus, one lad had just been baptized and absented himself from Mass the following Sunday. Inquiry brought to light the fact that he had been busy plundering some other boy's garden. Father had a stern lecture ready for the little delinquent when he was met with these words: "Yes, Father, stealing is an awful sin, but you see, the devil just pushed me right into that garden." For many years to come we shall have to continue the discipline of the catechumenate, both to weed out the insincere and the fainthearted, and to give opportunity for adequate instruction in Christian faith and practice. Our lessons can all be constructive because most of our people have not so much as heard of Luther or Calvin. It is against Satan and the powers of darkness that we must set the battle in array.

Early in '35 two misfortunes befell us. In February, just after he had made the "Bandi Patrol" with Father Parsell, Bishop Campbell was taken ill and was incapacitated for months. Early [119/120] in March Dr. Krueger also was smitten seriously. Father Whittemore walked all that night of March 3d to reach the British military post at Daru in Sierra Leone to summon the nearest doctor. In the emergency Dr. Cathcart obtained leave at once from his commanding officer; and reached the mission 24 hours after Whittemore had left it. Though motor transport was available in Sierra Leone, it seemed, even so, an almost incredible feat; for Father Whittemore's trip to Dana and the doctor's to Bolahun totaled 150 miles! Dr. Cathcart ordered Dr. Krueger to return home to Germany at once. Feverish business it was to pack trunks and boxes for Dr. Krueger and his family overnight, to find hammocks and carriers to transport them to Pendembu with all speed and get them on the train for Freetown. It was a hard necessity that was laid on Mrs. Krueger, but haste was imperative. As a sequel, Dr. Krueger finally did recover in Germany. But he lost his life on the "Bismark" when she sunk during World War II off Norway. That such an excellent person should have escaped one call of death only to become a casualty of war a few years later supplies abundant material for meditation and prayer.

Bishop Campbell had received Dr. Krueger's attention, and by him had been advised to take a long rest. He was apparently saturated with malaria and showed alarming symptoms of high blood pressure. Dr. Cathcart confirmed that diagnosis and in rather military style ordered a long rest, saying that it would be the only hope of ultimate recovery. Consequently, at the pressing invitation of the Prior, the Bishop settled down in a house not far from the monastery known as Masamai, built originally for one of the doctors. It was October before he could travel back to Monrovia, his see city. His obvious inability to resume responsibilities made it advisable for him to resign his jurisdiction; which he did.

Then came 1936. Father Whittemore had been at the mission for ten years, supplying encouragement to all by his cheery [120/121] personality and wise counsels. His pet name among the natives was "Banangi," and referred not to any moral turpitude but to the bright little tricks he would play on them at times. When he would hold out a shilling and someone try to take it, the coin would disappear. Cries of "Banangi" (rascal) would arise amid much hearty laughter. At the annual Chapter of the Order held at West Park in August Father Whittemore was elected Superior, succeeding Father Hughson in that office. Father Baldwin, as soon as he received the cable announcing the high honor which had come to one of the Bolahun staff, installed him formally, so that there would be no break in administrative affairs. Father Wbittemore sailed at once for the States to assume his new duties. Finished now were those lively tennis and bowling matches, those evening games of chess or backgammon--at least as a semi-official part of the schedule. The one consolation for his leaving was the ardent support the brethren knew he would lend the mission at home.

A guest who had been with us for several months was Dr. Robert Morey, who was engaged gathering materials for his thesis preparatory to gaining another degree. He left for an exploratory trip to the Pandemai Mountains to the east of us, and in some way never clearly explained became lost. He was wandering about in the bush for days, and Father Dwalu and Others in Pandemai searched from the spot where he had last been seen. They finally found him, nearly dead from exhaustion. This gave us all a big scare and the Prior had to issue some pretty stiff edicts on the subject of men going into the forest alone.

The new bishop was the Rt. Rev. Leopold Kroll, who was consecrated in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York City, in February '36. He paid his first visit to Bolahun in time for Christmas. Father Kroll is his son, so it was rather like a happy family gathering when Father and son met, even though "over the hills and far away." During his stay the Bishop confirmed a large class of candidates. He evinced deep interest in [121/122] every aspect of the work, offering many practical, helpful suggestions.

One of these looked toward a more careful supervision of convalescents at the hospital. We have mentioned how the people would try to stay on indefinitely after their discharge as cured. Not subject to the mission, free from the control of their own chiefs, these idlers had become a knotty problem. It was now time to take strong measures to send them back home, so we arranged for a general exodus, to the lasting benefit of the entire place.

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